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Analysis of and commentary on South African politics from a liberal perspective. Winner: Best Political Blog 2012.

Tag: Criticism

The ANC’s top ten ‘treasonous’ people


ANCFlagFEATURE: As the ANC has turned its bullying gaze towards First National Bank, so one of its perennial slurs has once again been invoked – ‘treason’, and the suggestion that FNB was attempting to overthrow the government. It is a hysterical and wholly inaccurate accusation, designed to silence criticism and shut down debate – and FNB is not the first to be labelled ‘treasonous’ by the ANC. Here follows a list of ten such instances. In each case the charge is outlandish and wrong, and, in each case, it is used as a response to disagreement rather than any actual threat. Perhaps more importantly, together they describe a party out of touch both with reality and its own history.

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On tolerance


TheThingAboutSERIES: It has become fashionable to champion diversity as if the idea and its practical manifestations are one in the same, both good and virtuous. This is wrong. Diversity, as a value, is important, good and necessary but not every actual difference in a society is therefore equally virtuous. Many things that are ‘different’ are anti-freedom. One needs to distinguish between allowing difference the space to flourish and evaluating and responding to that difference itself. If we fail to do that, tolerance suffers. It becomes a euphemism for blind acceptance, which is not its purpose.

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On gullibility


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. At some point or other in our lives everyone is gullible but what separates those people who are consistently gullible from those who are not? The ability to learn from experience is important, likewise the need not to be deferential in the face of political correctness and orthodoxy.

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Petrol price increase “indefensible”: ANC


SERIES: A good quote can hold within it a thousand separate insights, just as surely as some poorly constructed thought can reveal someone as a fool. Quotable Quotes looks at what is said, what was said and, on occasion, how the two compare. A lot of people forget but the ANC was once in opposition – from 1990, when it was un-banned, to South Africa’s first democratic election, in April 1994. Perhaps not formally elected but, for that period of time and in the run-up to 94, it assumed the role. Here are a few quotes from the ANC back then. I wonder how the ANC has held up in government against the standard it set when it was in opposition?

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SA Journalism: Prizes for everyone


FEATURE: Yet another round of South African journalism awards has just passed. Did you know there are some 82 of them? That’s an awards ceremony every four and a half days. Is South African journalism really such a worthy recipient of so much self-reflecting praise? Look at the Fourth Estate more closely and it seems rife with problems. But it would be you alone looking, certainly the mainstream media, despite so many protestations about its import and the value of self-regulation, is the last institution to cast a critical gaze over its own condition. But with so many awards on offer, why would it? Not when it can rather remind itself every few days just how excellent it truly is.

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Journalism 101: 1st Check facts; 2nd Write opinion


FEATURE: Chris Gibbons has written for the Daily Maverick an article which revolves around a central premise that is completely wrong. Thus, the whole article is wrong; likewise, all the conclusions he draws from it are wrongheaded. It’s a good example of poor journalism, not merely because the facts are all over the place, but because it relies so heavily on clichéd ideas that, given a moments consideration, are revealed to be flawed. Here is my response.

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On arrogance


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. A common accusation today is to accuse someone of being ‘arrogant’. In doing so, however, arrogance is often confused with boldness and, in truth, it is the powerful who, not wanting to be contradicted, evoke the idea of arrogance to defend themselves.

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On clichés


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Cliches are now so common their effect has been denuded of its value – instead of enliving debate, they dull it down. And, with their over-use, has come the uncritical perception they suggest wisdom and knowledge. A perception often abused by those whom evoke and hide behind their empty meaning.

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Is the ANC its own harshest critic?


FEATURE: President Zuma’s election as ANC President ushered in a new era in ANC politics. Gone were the days of tight party discipline and the seemingly unified, focused communication that defined Mbeki’s reign. Now it openly and, on a regular basis, criticises itself – often in the harshest terms. Unfortunately, it has little to do with improvement and everything to do with political posturing and so, in the run-up to Mangaung, we can expect more of it, not less.

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In conversation about tolerance


SERIES: Two heads are better than one, or so the saying goes. Jacques Rousseau is a lecturer in critical thinking and ethics, as well as a columnist for the Daily Maverick and, in discussion with him, the series In Conversation will look to explore a key concept or development in a few email exchanges. Few ideas get more attention than in South African public debate than that of ‘tolerance’ – and, with it, the seemingly omnipresent idea of ‘offence’. We get offended a lot. Too much perhaps? In response, tolerance seems to have become an excuse to avoid the proper critical examination of bad ideas and poor thinking. These, among others, are some of the issues explored this week.

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On offence


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective.  In this column, a look at the idea of offence – something so often evoked by the insecure and hyper-sensitive to try and suppress those views and opinions with which they disagree; usually, ironically, in the name of tolerance.

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On prejudice


SERIES: The Thing About is a weekly Business Day column designed to discuss democratic ideas, ideals, values and principles from a liberal perspective. Today, a look at prejudice. Prejudice appears in many forms, but it is at its most insidious when it denies its own existence. One has a duty to identify that kind of prejudice for what it is, but it also constitutes a danger to rational criticism – because, unless properly done, almost anyone can then be accused of prejudice.

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On critics and criticism


ARTICLE: Related to (and in many places overlapping with) this article, the piece below appeared in Rapport this past Sunday. Again, it is on criticism and critics, but it does have something aditional to say about pessimism and how it relates to critical comment. From those interested in the Afrikaans version, it can be found here.

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Who critiques the critics?


FEATURE: This is a piece appeared on Politicsweb a few days ago. It focuses on the work of Pierre de Vos, a regular critic of the DA’s style and tone, and asks the question: What of his style and tone? Does his own tone measure up to the standard he sets for others?

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